Make Your Own (Pint-Sized) Christmas Tree



This adorable craft project caught my eye while I searched for holiday projects to make with the children at Pediatric Occupational Therapy Services (POTS). Instructions were adapted from www.busybeekidscrafts.com, photos by Busy Bee Kids Crafts. I was drawn to the multi-sensory components of this project, including the olfactory (smell) sense and touch.


Is your child hesitant to get messy or dirty? Adjusting to the sensation of feeling messy and gluey is particularly important for preschoolers, who are often presented with similar activities in the classroom. Messy play is essential for developing hand strength and coordination that are foundations for fine motor skills. Providing these types of opportunities at home is a great way to make him/her feel more comfortable when faced with them at school, and what better motivation than making your own Christmas tree.


Adaptations for the Tactile Defensive child…

If your child is unsure about touching the glue, demonstrate that it is ok to be messy, and that hands can be washed immediately afterward. If that fails, allow your child to wear disposable gloves at first to get used to the sensation of glue without actually touching it. As your child feels more comfortable encourage him/her to snip the fingers off of the gloves one at a time



Here’s what you’ll need…

  • Pine cones (scented or unscented)

  • Rice

  • Green food coloring

  • Zip-lock baggie

  • Wax paper

  • Glue

  • Paper plate or bowl

  • Embellishments to decorate your tree, such as sequins

  • You may need a  small piece of paper tube, such as a toilet paper roll, if your pine cone will not stand up on its own


Here’s how you make it…


  1. In a zip-lock bag mix 1 cup of rice, 1 teaspoon of water and 6-10 drops of food coloring. Seal the bag and have your child squish the bag around until all the rice is coated. All that squishing is a great way to give deep tactile input to the hands. Lay the rice on a sheet of wax paper to dry. It should dry very quickly.

  2. To add an olfactory (smell) experience to this project, use a scented pine cone. They are often sold at supermarkets and craft stores at this time of year. Spread glue ALL OVER your pine cone- insides and outsides. Have your child use his/her finger to spread the glue into all the crevices rather than using a craft stick to give him/her the tactile experience.

  3. Hold your pine cone over a paper plate or bowl and sprinkle rice all over the gluey pine cone. Press the rice down with your fingers so that it sticks really well! Shake off the excess into the bowl. Repeat until the whole pine cone is covered.

  4. Now it’s time to decorate your tree. Glue on sequins for ornaments, rolled up bits of tissue paper (great fine motor challenge), foam, pompoms, or buttons. If your pine cone does not stand up on its own just cut a small piece off a paper tube and place your pine cone inside (it will just look like the trunk).

Blog adapted by Aviva Goldwasser, MS, OTR/L & Chaye Lamm Warburg, DPS, Director of POTS


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